KC: I think about that a lot – there’s a variety of reasons why that is for me. Even in my personal life this notion of the autonomous, separated singular individual is very troubling to me – I think our sense of individualism is the root of many of our society’s ills. I have been casually researching these ideas for many, many years, just listening to and reading different things.
I once heard an interview with john a. powell in which he described the U.S.’s racial issues as rooted, obviously, in slavery, but also in the Enlightenment–this moment where the individual got held up as the whole truth of being. This notion of the separation between myself and the other is what allowed something like chattel slavery to occur in our country. Because I could see you as different than myself, I could create a little more distance, and all of a sudden you aren’t even a person. I could treat you differently and even brutally because ‘you’ no longer had anything to do with ‘me’.
I was really struck by the way this notion of holding up the importance of the individual has eroded our society’s capacity to take care and to make things together, in consideration of one another. It has allowed us to do a lot of harm to one another and to ignore the welfare of each other. To tend to each other feels like a struggle, an effort. Even to conceive of how to do that feels like something that is no longer ‘second nature’ to us.
But I seem to be wired to be drawn to these ideas that something that I make with another will be greater than simply the sum of the parts of those who are contributing. And that, in the working together and in the exchange, we get to places we can never get to alone. At the same time, I struggle with feeling very alone, and grapple with the resistance to give myself fully to another. I bump up against all of that societal training to not rely on other people, to think I have to figure it out on my own. It’s a lifelong quandary for me.